19 Civilians Burned, Hacked To Death In Democratic Republic Of The Congo

Nineteen civilians in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) were burned and hacked to death by Ugandan rebels, a local official Kakule Kalunga told a news agency on August 28. They were killed by “bladed weapons and fire”, and houses were also set on fire.

Fourteen bodies were found on August 28, a day after the incident, by Red Cross workers in a nearby forest when they went to look for those missing after the attack on Kasanzi village in the Beni territory of North Kivu. Beni is in an area where the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), affiliated with ISIL (ISIS), have carried out deadly ambushes despite emergency security measures taken by President Felix Tshisekedi.

ADF is the deadliest out of 122 reported armed groups in the region. Many of those come from two regional wars from 1996 to 2003. The Kivu Security Tracker, a United States-based monitor of violence in the eastern DRC, blames the ADF for more than 1,200 deaths in the Beni area alone since 2017.

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Under the state of siege

The provinces of North Kivu and Ituri have been under a state of siege since May 6, by which civilian authorities have been replaced with the army and police officers to fight armed groups. Violence has been endemic in DRC’s mineral-rich eastern regions since the official end of the civil war in 2003, but insecurity has soared in the past two years, Al Jazeera describes.

After the declaration of the state of siege violent actions have still taken place, but Justice Minister Rose Mutombo has said that numerous militia fighters have surrendered and that the army has control of new areas, although “much remains to be done.” A further strain has been put on the government by the volcanic eruption of Nyiragongo on May 22 killing at least 31 people and making 20,000 homeless, according to United Nations figures.

The state of siege has failed to prevent other attacks on civilians such as the killing of 55 people on May 31. This was potentially the worst night of violence the area has seen in at least four years, according to Al Jazeera. More recently, on the 22 of July, 16 civilians were killed as they returned from a market on a highway between the towns of Maimoya and Chani-chani, 40km from Beni.

Earlier this August, US special operations forces have arrived in the area to help the Congolese army in their fight against the ADF. The size of the contingent is unknown, but about a dozen soldiers could be seen in official photos of a meeting between President Tshisekedi and a delegation led by the US ambassador to the DRC, Mike Hammer, according to AFP.

It is reported that the US forces will boost the Congolese army’s fight against ADF in the national parks of Virunga and Garamba and that the mission will last several weeks. The United States has deemed ADF a “terrorist” group affiliated with Islamic State, but some United Nations experts have expressed doubts over the alleged links. Be as it may be, the Catholic Church in the country says the ADF has killed about 6,000 civilians since 2013.

At least 450 civilians have been killed in armed conflicts in the eastern part of the country in the first seven months of 2021, a local group, the Irumu civil society has said.

Urgent and enhanced measures are very much needed to protect civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, especially in the eastern region. Recent incidents have displaced nearly 20,000 people only in the North Kivu province.

Panic, fear, and anxiety are running rampant through the community, as well as a lack of confidence in the security forces. Social life, economic, and educational everyday activities are continuing to be interrupted and weaken while challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and resurgent cases of Ebola further endanger Congolese lives.

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